“Behind what hills does happiness hide, to lurk and plot its return?”
(From ‘At the loch of the Green Corrie’ by Andrew Greig).
So here we are on the first Monday of the last interlull: two points from the last four games and since the last interlull we have moved from a promising albeit flattering third position in the league to an equally flattering shared fifth position now. The gap with the top-four is a whopping eight points, so over just four PL games we have more or less imploded. The Chavs and the Foxes are firing on all cylinders and Pool and Citeh are in class of their own, despite the Northern Oilers current fourth position. Season over?!
Of course it is only early days; another 26 PL games will have to be played this season. A good run could do miracles and we have the squad to do that.
There are, however, very few supporters left who believe that Emery has the ability to turn things round. Our players work hard but there is little belief in the way the team is set up and asked to play. Our best midfielders, with the exception of Emery’s pet project Guendouzi, have all had issues with Emery: Ozil was ostracized, Xhaka humiliated and Torreira messed about. Furthermore, Ramsey was not convinced to stay to flourish in Emery-ball and neither was Mkhi.
Instead, Emery convinced many fellow Gooners that Guendouzi, Willock and possibly Ceballos are the future of Arsenal, and this may well be true. But that future, if it’s ever to come to fruition, is significantly disconnected from the here and now. Our current midfield set-up is at the level of relegation-battling teams which should be a real concern to everyone connected to the club.
Our defence is not great either but there is potential to become much better soon. The interlull will do Bellerin, Tierney and Holding good after a few hard games and you won’t tell me that Emery cannot put a good defence on the pitch with the sort of quality defenders we have. But of course ‘a defence’ will work much better if the whole team, and especially the midfield, also help defending.
I didn’t do my normal ‘eight observations’ after the LC game as I would just have been repeating myself; and if I am sick of this I am pretty sure you are too. But one thing I would have said is that despite Emery’s 3-4-3 formation and effectively putting seven defence-minded players on the pitch (excluding goalkeeper), we still were easily picked apart and crumpled as soon as the first goal went in. We lost by two but it could have been more.
Our attacking options are very good, we all know this, but to get the best out of them we need to play as a team with a system of football and appropriate tactics to let them strut their stuff. It must be said that Auba and Laca did not have a great game against the Foxes, but as a team Arsenal did not make up for this, and that is our biggest problem: we don’t defend as a team and don’t attack as a team, and the clue is in midfield.
The big question is how is it possible that we are still not a strong unit, a team bigger than the sum of its parts and on the road to somewhere? Forget our position in the league, it is now all about the existence of a plan, a road through the wilderness and collective belief in the future for players and supporters. The BoD and manager are failing in this and dark clouds have gathered above Ashburton Grove.
The BoD are apparently sticking with Emery till the end of the season at least, which is brave and should be applauded to some extent. However, after the current interlull there will be no respite: every game will have to be a battle for the points and failure will accumulate fast. With the lack of connection between manager and the players, both in terms of tactics and in man-management style, it is hard to see a way out of our fast descend towards midtable or worse. Many supporters are already looking at this season, with six months to go, as a write-off.
A football club and their supporters live by the hope and belief in better: in a vision of progress. The BoD have their work cut out to give us this.